Donora, Pennsylvania: the most magical place in baseball

It’s difficult to believe this is a real thing. We’ll have our staff statistician research the probability of the following, but you can bet it’s infinitesimally slim: Two elite MLB players, Stan Musial and Ken Griffey, Jr., were both born in the same small Pennsylvania town.

Donora, Pennsylvania, is home to fewer than 5,000 human beings. The chances of two Hall of Fame ballplayers being born there is small, but even more bizarre: Stan the Man and The Kid were born on the same day: November 21 (albeit 49 years apart). Ken Griffey Jr. is the second best left-handed outfielder from Donora might be the strangest true thing you’ll read all day.

Musial was a 20-time-All-Star and seven-time batting champion. He batted .331 and belted 475 home runs in his career. And he was good of a man off the diamond as he was on it, Musial was awarded the Preside,ntial Medal of Freedom in 2011, the country’s highest civilian honor.

Stan Musial having a laugh with JFK during at 1962 All-Star game.(source/Twitter)
Stan Musial having a laugh with JFK during at 1962 All-Star game.(source/Twitter)

 

 

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Ty Cobb, who was, for his part, as bad of a man off the field as he was good on it, said this about Stan Musial.

“No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today…. He plays as hard when his club is away out in front of a game as he does when they’re just a run or two behind.”

Ty Cobb

Ken Griffey, Jr. was one of the most impressive power hitters and sweetest swingers of his era. The Pennsylvania native hit 630 home runs in a career compromised by injury. Both he and Musial are on the list of the best hitters in baseball history – are they in the right spots:


Junior lead the league in homers four times. He won 10 Gold Gloves and played on 13 All-Star teams.

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Unfortunately, Donora’s claim to fame seems to be about all the rust belt town has going for it. Larry Stone, profiling the Western Pennsylvania locale for the Seattle Times, began his piece with a string of some of the most depressing sentences ever written about a place.

“The peeling sign greets drivers as they cross the Monongahela River on the “Stan The Man” Musial Bridge ‘Donora, The Home of Champions.’”

Yeesh. And it gets worse once Stone talks to the Donorans.

“Donora is a decaying town, another in a long line of once-flourishing Rust Belt boroughs along the river in Western Pennsylvania that have hit hard times. The steel mills closed long ago. A broken-down bridge that was Donora’s last business life line was imploded last year. Inhabitants wonder if their city is ever going to get its luster back.”

“‘It’s really depressing, and basically, everybody moves out of this town,” said Dennis Lomax, 64, who grew up in Donora and moved back about 10 years ago to be near his daughter and two grandchildren.”

Phew. That’s a dim portrait. Sad to see a place that was such an improbable vortex of baseball greatness fading into oblivion. But whatever happens to Donora, at least it produced Musial and Griffey.